Field notes on a religious ritual (detail)


Welcome to the Religion Module of the Fürer-Haimendorf Field Notes. In this module you will read several pages of Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf's "real time" field notes, that is, notes that he scribbled as he witnessed a religious ritual conducted by Sherpas in the town of Khumjung, Nepal. (Some hints for deciphering Fürer-Haimendorf's handwriting in these quickly jotted notes: he uses a circle as shorthand for the word and, and his letter k often resembles a capital R. Thus, for example, a word that appears to be RuRri is in fact the word kukri–a type of curved knife common to the region.)

You will then proceed to a diary entry Fürer-Haimendorf wrote a few hours later the same day, enabling you to compare and contrast an ethnographer's notes on a religious rite taken "in the moment" with the description, informed by memory and reflection, that he crafted at a slightly later time. Following this, you will read the final version of the information he gathered via field notes and diary: Fürer-Haimendorf's description of the ritual in his book The Sherpas of Nepal: Buddhist Highlanders.

Finally, this module gives you the opportunity to compare Fürer-Haimendorf's accounts with another ethnographer's description and interpretation of a similar Sherpa ritual, and to reflect on differences that can arise from varying epistomological and theoretical stances, as well as from local variations, or changing times.

Tsirim Rite Field Notes, 28 April, 1957
Diary Entry, 28 April, 1957
Excerpt from The Sherpas of Nepal (1964)

Additional Resources:

Sherry Ortner, chapter 6 of Sherpas Through Their Rituals (1978)
Barbara Gartrell, "Is Ethnography Possible?" Journal of Anthropological Research 35, no. 4(1979): 426-41